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Unit information: Contemporary Theory in Archaeology in 2015/16

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Unit name Contemporary Theory in Archaeology
Unit code ARCH25002
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Joanna Bruck
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit aims to acquaint students with current themes in archaeological theory. Emphasis is placed upon understanding the role of theory in contemporary archaeology and in understanding the situations within which various approaches to archaeological theory have developed. The content of the unit will provide students with the skills to effectively read, understand and assess current archaeological literature on the basis of its theoretical stance. The unit provides an overview of the philosophical and material dimensions of various theoretical positions, reviewing the history of this development and providing the necessary analytical frameworks within which to understand contemporary trends in archaeological theory.

Aims to:

  • provide students with an overview of the historical background to current archaeological theory and practice, and the philosophical development of archaeological theory as a coherent sub-discipline from the 1960s onwards.
  • enable students to assess the relative importance of competing explanative frameworks and to understand their historical situation.
  • provide students with an academic background to effectively read current archaeological literature.
  • provide students with an academic background to effectively understand current archaeological literature.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of the unit, a successful student will be able to

1. Discuss the broad philosophical and historical development of contemporary archaeological theory.

2. Interpret the broad scope of philosophical and theoretical literature as it applies tothe study of archaeology.

3. Evaluate critically and deconstruct archaeological texts on the basis of their theoretical underpinnings.

4. Explain and evaluate archaeological data from multiple theoretical standpoints.

Teaching Information

Lectures and seminars.

Assessment Information

One 2,500 word essay (50%) and one 2 hour examination (50%).

Reading and References

  • Bentley, R.A., H.D.G. Maschner and C. Chippendale, (eds) 2008. Handbook of Archaeological Theories. Lanham: AltaMira Press
  • Gamble, C. 2001. Archaeology: the basics. London: Routledge
  • Gosden, C. 1999. Anthropology & Archaeology: a changing relationship. London: Routledge
  • Hodder, I. (eds) 2001. Archaeological Theory Today. Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Renfrew, C. & Bahn, P. (eds). 2005. Archaeology: the key concepts. London: Routledge
  • Thomas, J. (ed.) 2000. Interpretive Archaeology, a reader. London: Leicester University Press
  • Trigger, B. 1989. A History of Archaeological Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press